By Claire Thomas, The Kitchy Kitchen
Inspiration for recipes can come from so many places, and once you have basic techniques down, it's really easy to create your own.
I am a huge history nerd, so my interest in food originally came through my love of food history. I just found how people used to eat and entertain, and how we do it now, endlessly fascinating. I started recreating vintage recipes that captured my imagination, or using them for inspiration and creating a new dish. Out of college, I had a sort of boring office job, and my mom suggested I start a food blog for fun. I took a few months to learn how to shoot food photography and recipe test, and then launched The Kitchy Kitchen. I was soon able to quit my job, and work as a food stylist and food photographer.
A huge source of inspiration for me is the local farmers market. When the bell rings out at 8:30 on Wednesday mornings, and I set foot at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, I know I am somewhere special. Farmers to the right of me, and foodies to the left, and everyone has deeply-held opinions and they all want to talk. If I see an exciting ingredient I’ve never had before, I ask the farmers, “How do you like eating this?” and they rattle off their top three favorite dishes. I recognize local chefs and follow them around (sneaky, I know) making note of what they buy and from whom. I basically learned to cook from eating, asking, and reading, in that order. Some things still intimidate me, like grilling a steak to a perfect medium-rare or baking with yeast, but each time I try, I learn and improve and then get to eat it. That’s the wonderful thing about food. You can throw away the mistakes and eat the successes.
Try these late summer/ early fall recipes, inspired by my visit to the Santa Monica Farmers Market with Sweat Life founder Aly Teich, and you’ll be feeling refreshed in the kitchen in no time.
BURRATA WITH STONEFRUIT, MINT, AND CHILIES
Burrata is one of my favorite things. It's up there with brown butter. Basically, if it's in a dish, it's somehow improving it, and I must eat it. During the warmer months, I love pairing this fresh, creamy cheese with bright stone fruit. The acid in the peaches, plums, and nectarines are a fantastic counterpoint to the cheese's mild sweetness, and the mint and chilies add a fun herbaceous layer and kick. This is hardly a recipe, more of a collection of things that are awesome together, so feel free to mix it up and make these your own. Enjoy!
1 pound stone fruit, sliced (peaches, plums, nectarines)
1 serrano or thai chili, thinly sliced (more if you want it quite spicy)
1 small handful mint leaves, torn
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
5 ounces arugula
1 lb burrata, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Combine the fruit, chili, and mint in a bowl, and drizzle with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Toss to combine. Lay the arugula in a ring on a plate, place the fruit in the center, and lay the burrata slices on top. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on the burrata, then drizzle the entire salad with the remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with a little salt and pepper.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO ROASTED EGGPLANT SALAD WITH FETA AND CRISPY PITA
I can't believe I'm writing this, but I'm sort of over caprese. Shhh shhh shhh shhh. I know. I KNOW. Crazy talk. But it's true. My threshold for caprese has been met, I have full caprese saturation. All summer long, and into what has become that typical Los Angeles post-summer phase where it's in the 80s through November, caprese is my answer to anything. Tomatoes are at their peak in flavor and texture, basil is growing like mad, and the combination with milky mozzarella is always delicious. But always delicious can get a bit boring, and in an attempt to avoid a desert island scenario where I only eat caprese, I decided to mix it up.
Sumac, a Turkish spice, gives the eggplant a tart kick, and when combined with cumin and chili powder, this basic salad of tomatoes, basil, and feta takes a decidedly Middle Eastern and delicious turn.
3 cups tomatoes, wedged or chopped into 2 inch sections
1 garlic clove, minced
2 small eggplant (net 2 cups)
1 teaspoon sumac (or lemon zest if you can't find it)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili
salt and pepper
1 pita, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1/4 cup basil, chiffonade
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 cup feta, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Slice the eggplant into 1 inch thick slices. Drizzle with half of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, sumac, chili, and cumin. Drizzle the pita with the remaining olive oil and some salt and pepper. Cook both in the oven for 15 minutes. Flip the eggplant and cook for another 10 minutes, until the pita is golden brown and the eggplant is tender.
Chop the eggplant into 1 inch sections and add to the tomatoes. Add the herbs, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic, and sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper. Stir to combine and then add the pita and feta, stirring a couple of times to combine. Enjoy!
Claire Thomas is an unabashed food enthusiast. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, and has turned food into an intellectual and grumbling-stomach driven passion. Because of her proximity to great restaurants and food stuffs, the dive into the culinary arena has been exciting for an inquisitive gourmand such as Claire. A self-taught chef, coupled with her incurable curiosity about food, this has pushed her to taste, create, and study anything and everything. Claire works as a commercial director, food photographer, and writer, using her blog, Kitchy Kitchen, as an experimental playground. She has been featured on the web and in print, in titles like Glamour magazine, Town and Country, Refinery 29, Los Angeles magazine, and more. She hopes you enjoy reading about her adventures as much as she enjoys filming and writing about them. Happy eating!